Wednesday, 6 February 2008

honkjazz - The Allotment! Part 4

Horse-crap, Movies and No-Good Do-Gooders.

Picked up eight bags of horse manure and made a good friend and helpful ally this morning. After finding this link (scroll down a bit and see the list of locations on the right) on this website I discovered a stable yard just a couple of miles away from the honkjazz Garden Of Delights (Tm). So I called them up and spoke to the very lovely Wendy who invited me to wander down and help myself. I will admit to being a tad disappointed by the freshness of the manure on offer (1 week old perhaps?) but still, it's free and it'll make the start of a beautiful compost heap that will be ripe for the beds next year so I can't complain.
Never look a gift horses arse in the mouth? No. That's wrong. Never look a gift-horse in the ass? Never gift a horses ass a mouth?
What the hell is a gift-horse anyway?

(Wanted a photo of a horse doing a poo but I couldn't find one. And folks, if you're going to do a google image search on "sh*tting horse" please, please, please make sure your google safety filters are set to MAXIMUM! Don't say I didn't tell you......)

Acting on a hunch I asked Wendy if she knew anyone who was interested in puzzle magazines, especially Sudoku puzzles.
"Well, yes. Me.", she replied with caution.
"In that case, Wendy my love, it's your lucky day!"
With a twinkle in my eye and a swagger to my step I produced a box of the puzzle magazines that my employers publish.

"Ere' you go darlin, 'ave these for yerself.", I said, all traces of
west country burr dropping from my accent quicker than me plates of meat'll carry me down the rub a dub for a pint of Nelson *. My son. etc.
(note - have you ever tried to swagger whilst wearing boots caked in horse crap? Not easy, my friend, not easy at all.)

* Nelson Mandela - Stella (I know, it's astonishing, isn't it?)

They were only old back issues but I'd packed them on a hunch which proved to be correct. As Wendy's eyes lit up she promised to call the farmer who takes the bulk of their horse manure away and said there'd be no problem in helping myself to the really stanky stuff from his mountainous dung-heap.
Result. That'll go straight into the potato beds we dig out this weekend.
Talking of this weekend, we'll be having our first guests to the plot. Some friends are coming down from Bristol to stay despite the repeated warnings of manual labor. And on Sunday even more friends are coming over to lend a hand and deliver some more well rotted horse muck so we're expecting a good amount of progress to be made.
Which is nice.

What the hell is up with Freecycle? I understand the concept, agree completely with its "one man's rubbish is another man's treasure" ethos and participate eagerly in the whole process. But am I missing something here? Twice now have we been gazumped on Freecycle.
The first time was over a poly-tunnel. It was only a 20 minute drive away and we thought that it would make an excellent addition to the site. Emails were traded with the owner who I shall name and shame as the asshat PAUL SHARMAN OF KILLERTON and he even gave us his address to collect from. Then an email is received saying "sorry the poly-tunnel is taken". What? What? I wrote back to say "Woah there, I thought we had a deal, we're all set to collect in a couple of days. What's happened?" and he replied by saying "I'm freecycling it, not selling it. I can give the tunnel to whoever (sic) I want!". He even rubbed salt into the wound by sending another e-mail that simply stated "I said yes to a lady from Lympstone" which I think sounds like the start of a dirty limerick.
The second time was over a shed and you can imagine how keen Herbert and I were to get that. After e-mailing the woman and saying "yes please, let me know when we can come and see it" I received a mail two days later saying "sorry the shed has been taken". Yes, BY US!!!!!

So what exactly is happening here? Are we going about this the wrong way? Or are we just dealing with meanies who like to show that they are The Boss (The Asshat) and no-one else can tell them what to do? I feel a little bit strange having a go at people who have the good grace to use freecycle anyway but at the end of the day it's just not cricket.

Movie About Allotments Review 1 - 'Grow Your Own'
(I'd imagine there won't be too many other films that make this list. Just saying, like.)

Released: 2007
Director: Richard Laxton
Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce & Carl Hunter
Starring: Benedict Wong, Philip Jackson, Eddie Marsan, Diveen Henry

Set on an allotment site in Liverpool, Grow Your Own follows the fate of a group of immigrants who are granted allotments on the Blacktree Road plot as a way of helping them deal with the mental scars of war, separation and exile. Sounds like a right barrel of laughs.
Well actually it is.

The main story follows Kung Sang (Benedict Wong, right) as he tries to recover from the terrible trauma of his family's exile from China. His two young children bravely shoulder the burden of the allotment and their everyday lives as their catatonic father stumbles on in silent apathy. Slowly, the process of working the land and the relationships he builds with some of the other plot-holders start to take effect.
The quirks and foibles of the British character are brought to life by a brilliant set of actors and the stereotypes so common amongst the allotments, womens institute meetings and lawn bowls societies are poked and prodded with loving respect. The cast is a showcase of stellar British acting talent. Nearly all of them are "oh, it's that bloke, you know the one, what's his name? He was in that thing, oh, you know..." and include Omid Djalili, Olivia Coleman and Roland Manookian. No idea? Image search their names and you'll see what I mean.

They are a beautiful collection of British oddballs, from the belligerent Kenny (Alan Williams, far left with Pearce Quigley and John Henshaw), a grumpy maverick who refuses to bow down to the letter of the allotment law imposed by site chairman Big John (Philip Jackson), a retired copper who tries to enforce the tightest of regimes in an attempt to oust the "influx" with red-tape and regulation, to the chairman's brow-beaten son Little John (Eddie Marsan, below) and his endearing attempts to woo
Miriam (Diveen Henry), a Zimbabwean single mother.

All of these sub-plots make a wonderful background to the main storyline and provide just enough of a glimpse into the character's lives to keep you interested. The heavyweight issues of eco-culture, immigration (and the old school British attitudes that greet it), mourning and mental trauma are filtered through the setting of the allotment beautifully and the film never seems to preach at the audience, rather letting the human relationships that form between the most unlikely of friends pass on the message. Admittedly the story-lines are fairly obvious from the start but they still manage to amuse and entice as the community aspect of the allotment draws you in and makes you care.

Visually the set is stunning and looks so natural and lived in that I couldn't believe it was anything but a real allotment (make sure to watch the DVD bonus documentary charting it's creation). The cinematography is simple and effective, showing the nooks and corners of the gardens that are such a creative and important part of allotment culture.
Some critics have spoken against the slow pace, especially concerning Wong's almost silent turn but I think that the various story-lines and character arcs keep the whole film balanced beautifully and Wong portrays his character with a frailty and depth that amazes. Some of his scenes with the other gardeners are just brilliant and I really never thought that the sight of two men painting a shed could bring a tear to my eye.
Hardcore allotmenteers may be disappointed by the lack of gardening knowledge displayed here but then there are plenty of television programs for that sort of thing, right?
Overall, this film has charm, comedy, romance and drama. All are dealt with in a way that brings a lot of smiles to the face and reinforces the British film industry's ability to present the quirks and follies of this strange country in a touching and interesting way.
Top marks/best in show.

'Grow You Own' can be bought here and you'll find a lovely little official website here.
Brazil Banks